10 Sales Tips to Winning Business in the First Meeting 06/19/2012
by Rebecca Barker, director of corporate communications for Miller’s Insurance Agency and co-chair of the PR Institute
Most of you, at one point or another, will present skills, ideas and talents to a decision-maker. You will prepare yourself with a clear understanding of the importance of reputation, appearance and professionalism. I challenge you to take your preparation a step further and examine your sales technique.
It is human nature to make judgments. We slowly form opinions as we subconsciously analyze every movement and comment by a new acquaintance; we are deciding if we like this person. When selling a service in a competitive field, it is imperative we make efforts to sway a prospect’s decision. We, as consumers, do not buy from people/companies we do not like.
Take this example: An average-looking, well-dressed woman walks into a meeting. She is there to present an insurance proposal to the executive staff of a local business. As far as insurance solutions, she has nothing more to offer than the two other consultants vying for the account do. After introductions, the group sits to wait for the CFO. In casual conversation, the woman is asked her thoughts on Facebook’s IPO. Without skipping a beat, she leans back into her chair – “It is an interesting development,” she says. “What are your thoughts?”
The woman in this example aims to develop the foundation for a trusting relationship. She has built a career from using the first meeting to its utmost potential to instantly build rapport. She will be judged when she enters the room and introduces herself and throughout the light conversation leading up to the start of the meeting. While the conversation is casual, she is careful not to allow the decision-makers to form even an inkling of negative opinion. When concerned about how her answer will be interpreted, she uses sales technique to reverse the question, and then constructs her answer around the opinion of the decision-maker.
Don’t be fooled; even this simple sales tactic is a practiced art. Imagine if you encountered someone who replied to every question with a question. You would most likely find that annoying and form negative opinions.
Read through the 10 tips below to ensure you are not unintentionally turning off decision-makers during your first meeting.
1. Create an up-front contract. This agenda should be given to the prospect via email prior to the meeting to help avoid “surprise” topics; ensure the client has a clear understanding of what will be discussed; and clarify your expectations for the meeting.
2. Make sure your time with the client is addressed. Ensure that there will be no interruptions or, if so, how will they be handled. (Don’t forget, your time is valuable too.)
3. Mirror the prospect to make them feel comfortable. Example: If they are drinking coffee and offer you a cup, join them!
4. Understand the behavioral style of the prospect. Are they dominant? An influencer? Compliant? I suggest a Google search for a quick refresher on who you are meeting with.
5. Remember the three elements of communication: body language (55 percent), tonality (38 percent) and spoken word (7 percent).
6. Be deliberate in establishing credibility. Your experience will always come into question for the prospect. Build his or her confidence in you and your abilities.
7. Consider the prospect’s “pain.” Identifying why you and your services are being sought out is vital to winning business.
8. Know your business and products well. Help the prospect understand the benefits of your business and products.
9. Be an active listener. Restate and paraphrase.
10. Clearly define the next step. This should be verbalized to the prospect before the meeting ends. Follow up to thank the prospect and confirm the next appointment.
Other helpful hints include using words like: maximize, increase, grow, minimize, reduce, decrease, eliminate, profit from, specific, specifically, save, conserve, accumulate, acquire, prevent, fully and immediate. Avoid these phrases: How are you today?; I’d like to learn a little more about your business to determine; I’d like to see if there are some ways we might work together; Is now a good time to talk?; and Did I catch you at a bad time?
As an age-old ethical practice, focus on the prospect’s best interest-not what you would personally gain by making the sale. Your genuine interest in the well being of the prospect will shine through in your interaction.
There are hundreds of different sales techniques we use without thought. I, for one, prefer to wear blue when meeting new people. The color is warm and reflects that I welcome conversation. I never wear anything, which makes my eyes look dark and avoid discussions about the Philadelphia Flyers (I tend to get a bit opinionated).